Senior industry executives said the DoT’s insistence that network equipment be tested in the country by local labs recognized by its technical arm, Telecom Engineering Center (TEC), could end up disrupting supply. timely equipping telecom operators and derailing 5G deployments. They want the in-country testing deadline extended to January 1, 2023, from the current July 1 deadline.
This, they said, is because local laboratories have not yet acquired the expertise to undertake comprehensive testing of the latest imported radio network equipment such as base stations, microwave systems , switches or routers, among others.
“Testing and certification of network equipment is very complex and the Indian lab ecosystem is working overtime to acquire this expertise… but as they will be testing radio equipment for the first time, they need more time to progress on the learning curve as training efforts have been hampered by the pandemic, skilled labor shortages and restrictions on international travel,” a senior executive at a major network provider told ET. global.
Separately, network providers have also urged the government to exempt 2G network equipment from the mandatory local test exercise. “We have pointed out to the government that although 2G technology is being phased out in many countries, it is still needed in India to support almost 280 million 2G users, and should therefore be exempted from the MTCTE scheme for ensure unhindered delivery of 2G services,” the quoted executive said.
Another industry leader said that to ensure there is no disruption to ongoing and future 4G/5G network rollouts, it is essential that the government postpone the implementation date for local testing to January 1. 2023. Some telecom operators have even pressured the government to push the deadline further. on July 1, 2023.
The government, for its part, plans to auction 5G spectrum in June-July and target the first 5G call by August-September.
In the short term, any implementation of the July 1, 2022 local testing deadline is likely to hit a slew of pending 4G extensions. But more importantly, industry experts have said that any large-scale disruption in 4G equipment supply will automatically derail 5G deployments, which will roll over 4G networks.
“Government needs to realize that 5G will build on existing 4G networks, and therefore carriers will invest in their 4G networks with 5G technology…so if the expansion of 4G networks is in disarray, it will have direct impact on proposed 5G launches in India,” said a senior telecommunications executive.
At press time, ET’s petitions to the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents
, Jio and , remained unanswered. The likes of Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung also failed to respond to ET’s questions.